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NWSL Power Rankings: Portland Thorns back on top

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(Craig Mitchelldyer/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL is just over halfway through the regular season as they head into a two-week break. Teams played yet another week with multiple replacement players as international tournaments continued.

For the first time in a long while, the JWS power rankings feature movement from every team (find last week’s power rankings here). The Portland Thorns jump back into first, Kansas City move into a season-best fourth, and the bottom five teams are a jumble. Adding to the chaos is the fact that two of the top four teams from last week’s NWSL standings suffered losses, and one game was postponed.

Here are this week’s power rankings.

12. North Carolina Courage (2-5-2) -1

The Courage did not play this week. Their match against Angel City FC on Friday was postponed until Sept. 14 due to COVID-19 protocols. Their drop in the power rankings is a result of other teams moving ahead of them.

11. Racing Louisville FC (2-5-5) +1

There is something about playing the No. 1 San Diego Wave that lights a fire under Racing Louisville. They could have easily overtaken the Wave for a second time this year in what ended up as a 0-0 draw on Friday. The thrilling match of penalty shot saves and goal-line clearances was in Louisville’s favor as they controlled 53 percent of the possession and dominated in the second half especially.

10. NJ/NY Gotham FC (4-6-0) -1

With a 5-0 loss to the Portland Thorns on Saturday, Gotham FC now has the most losses (six) in the league despite having played the second fewest games. Somehow they had more possession at 53 percent and finished with a 79 percent passing accuracy, and still they were unable to create any dangerous scoring chances.

9. Washington Spirit (1-5-7) -1

“Washington caused a lot of problems,” Orlando Pride acting head coach Seb Hines said after their 0-0 draw Sunday. Despite Washington’s disappointing record, the statement is on brand for the Spirit, who give opponents some of the toughest competition they’ve faced this year. The Spirit controlled most of Sunday’s match in the attacking third and created plenty of chances that they weren’t able to put away. The lack of a finishing touch has been detrimental for them this season and is holding them back in these power rankings.

8. Orlando Pride (3-5-4) +2

Despite an otherwise disappointing season for the Pride, July hasn’t been a bad month for them. In their last three games, they’ve gone 1-0-2, most recently tying the Washington Spirit 0-0. Despite being outshot 17-4, Orlando should have had a couple of goals by halftime, especially on Darian Jenkins’ breakaway. In the second half, they worked together as a unit to read Washington’s plays. It’s clear this team has been growing over the past few games.

7. Angel City FC (5-4-2) -2

Like the Courage, Angel City didn’t play this week and has been surpassed by other teams as a result.

6. Houston Dash (5-4-3) +1

The biggest takeaways from the past week are that the Dash are the most dramatic team in the NWSL when it comes to score lines. and that acquiring Ebony Salmon was a darn good trade. Formerly with Louisville, Salmon scored a hat trick for her side in their 4-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars, who were No. 2 at the time of the match. The outcome was probably the least expected of the week, but not necessarily surprising. Since the beginning of June, the Dash have also recorded a 5-0 win, a 4-0 loss and a 4-3 win, making them one of the most unpredictable clubs in the league. For now, the decisive win bumps them up a spot in the power rankings.

5. OL Reign (4-3-5) -1

Tobin Heath’s short but much-anticipated debut with the Reign wasn’t enough to secure any points on Sunday. The team’s 1-0 loss to Kansas City was an even game, however, with the lone goal coming from a penalty shot. The Reign put a lot of pressure on the Current’s defense, and their own defense registered five blocks and 13 interceptions. They weren’t able to produce as many good scoring chances, with their forwards not controlling the attacking third in the way they’re capable of.

4. Kansas City Current (5-4-3) +2

The Current’s hashtag, #TealRising, couldn’t tell the story any better. A 1-0 win over the OL Reign on Sunday extended their winning streak to three and unbeaten streak to seven, vaulting them even further up the standings. Lo’eau Labonta’s penalty kick was the deciding goal, but the Current showed offensive flair throughout the game and goalkeeper AD Franch made a couple of big saves to keep Kansas City on the front foot.

3. San Diego Wave FC (6-3-4) +1

The Wave played the most exciting draw the league has seen all season against Racing Louisville on Friday. The points could have easily gone either way after the high-tempo affair. Although the stats leaned in Louisville’s favor, San Diego was the stronger side in the first half. They lost their grip in the second, but goalkeeper Carly Telford kept her team in the game, making six big saves across the 90 minutes.

2. Chicago Red Stars (5-2-5) -1

A 4-1 defeat to the Dash wasn’t expected when the Red Stars went into the game tied for the fewest losses in the league. When forward Mallory Pugh was sidelined with an injury during the Challenge Cup, the Red Stars had a tough time finding the back of the net, and the problem resurfaced with Pugh away at the Concacaf W Championship. Chicago had 21 shots against Houston but couldn’t find the back of the net.

1. Portland Thorns FC (5-1-6) +1

The Thorns are becoming the rulers of blowout victories. Even with players out on international duty, they’ve demonstrated an undeniable amount of depth, with five different players scoring in Saturday’s 5-0 shutout of Gotham FC. The Thorns join the Reign with the most shutouts in the league (six) as they move to second in the standings. Setting the new league record on Saturday for the three fastest goals scored after kickoff (10:13), they also top the NWSL with 29 goals and are the only team with a double-digit goal differential of plus-19.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.